What if you were charged $30 dollars to access only 100 websites? Could you still stream videos online if you had to purchase a $10 “expansion bundle” every month to access video streaming services? Or would you still search the news if you had to spend an additional $20 dollars for an “extension package” every month to access Fox News, CNN, CNBC or MSNBC’s websites?
Scenarios like these are closer than you may think, and none of them are acceptable.
Under the new leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission has proposed a rule to reverse the progress made with the 2015 Open Internet Order, stripping consumers of net neutrality protections. These protections prohibit internet providers from restricting access to legal content by blocking, slowing down speeds or charging for prioritization on the internet.
In other words, they prohibit internet providers from manipulating your access to online content.
Without net neutrality protections, the internet would no longer be a free and open ecosystem for innovation. We stand to lose the tool that revolutionized the world, defining the Digital Age — and we stand to lose the independent flow of information critical to our economy, innovation and free speech.
The good news is that the public outcry has been demonstrable and telling. I am heartened to see that more six million people have already reached out to the FCC to file official comments before the comment period ends on July 17. I am proud to have joined so many Americans by also personally submitting comments opposing this rollback.
So much is being threatened, and the worst part is that our online independence has continued to be compromised in other ways, as well.
In just a few months, the FCC has initiated several actions that undermine the independent flow of information and allow special interests to sell your private information.
In March, Republicans in Congress permanently rolled back online privacy rules, which required broadband companies to obtain your consent before using or sharing your personal information, to protect your data and to notify you if there was breach of information. I fought against this permanent rollback in the House of Representatives, but Republicans charged forward, with President Trump and the FCC cheering them on.
What has replaced these privacy rules? A patchwork of state laws that are confusing to both providers and consumers. The only thing protecting your personal information is the goodwill of broadband companies, so all we can do is hope that they value consumer privacy over profits.
That is why I have been a leading co-sponsor of many bills aimed at defending the open internet and protecting your right to privacy, including the Email Privacy Act, legislation that protects Americans against warrantless searches of private emails; the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act, legislation that prohibits the sale of student data and targeted advertising to students, and the Speak Free Act, legislation that would enhance free speech protections for internet users by preventing bad actors from using a lawsuit to silence public opinion simply because they don’t agree with it. These are concepts that an overwhelming majority of Americans support, and both Democrats and Republicans in Congress should, too.
Americans’ information independence is under attack, whether it’s the repeal of net neutrality or the repeal of broadband privacy protections. The Federal Communications Commission needs to listen and serve the American people, not special interests. I am committed to protecting both your privacy and the internet as we know it. A free and open internet is essential to our democracy, economy and modern way of life.
Rep. Jared Polis is an independent leader who uses his private and public sector experience to find pragmatic solutions to the challenges facing Colorado and the nation. First elected to represent Colorado’s Second Congressional District in 2008, Polis serves on the powerful Committee on Rules, the Committee on Education and the Workforce, the Committee on Ethics, and the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. While still attending Princeton University, Polis co-founded his first company, American Information Systems, a success he followed with the launching of bluemountain.com and ProFlowers.com. He has been named an Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young. Reach him @jaredpolis.